Animal rights have been the subject of much debate, especially among animal rights groups who fight for animal welfare. Unfortunately, animal cruelty still runs rampant throughout much of the world.
Some people simply don’t believe in animal rights, and governments have failed to produce legislation that protects all animals from human predation.
Additionally, some industries have systematically commoditized animals for various purposes, treating them as things rather than as sentient beings. Even our beloved cats, dogs, and other pets are legally considered property.
It’s true that some animal rights legislation has passed in the United States and elsewhere. For instance, law enforcement can bring charges against a person for neglecting or abusing an animal. However, the animal his or herself doesn’t have any legal rights.
An abused dog can’t sue his tormenter for pain and suffering. A person can’t do so on his behalf, either.
Why does this continue? And what should animal rights look like on a global scale? Let’s dig into some of the specifics.
What Are Animal Rights?
Animal rights is an idea and a movement that asserts that animals should be able to live free of human interference and that they should never be exploited for human gain. Animals do have some rights, but not nearly enough.
Naysayers argue that nonhuman animals lack language and complex cognitive abilities, which somehow makes them lesser-than. However, animals have the ability to experience emotions like pain, fear, happiness, connection with others, and despair.
When a sentient being can suffer at the hands of humans, we have the obligation to protect them from our own brethren. Animals have value beyond what they’re worth by the pound, and stripping them of that value creates a culture in which animals are viewed as food, fur, or servants.
The animal rights movement seeks to eliminate this view of animals and to give animals rights beyond what they currently enjoy. It’s not about making nonhuman animals equal to humans, but about taking their inherent value into consideration when making decisions.
For instance, you could have a Big Mac for dinner. Alternatively, you could eat a garden salad full of flavorful fruits and vegetables. That’s a choice.
So is starting a business that harvests animals like we would a field of corn. You could, alternatively, start a business that doesn’t infringe on animal rights.
Animal Rights Facts That Might Shock You
Did you know that animals on factory farms live in such tight conditions that they typically can’t even turn around? They’re forced to live out their lives in tiny cages or crammed in amongst other animals of their kind with no room to move.
In hatcheries, which are designed to produce as many chicks as possible, male chicks are often ground up (technical term: macerated) alive because they have no value to the farmers. Others are scalded to death.
Dog fighting, a heinous blood sport, still exists today. In fact, the ASPCA estimates that tens of thousands of dogfights take place every year in the U.S. alone. Many of those fights are the professional variety, which means that hundreds of thousands of dollars could change hands for entrance fees and wagers.
You might also not know that animal testing has become unnecessary. We now have alternative methods, such as in vitro cultures, that provide more accurate results than animal testing because the tests are carried out on human tissue.
Yet thousands of animals suffer in laboratories around the world, suffering from human diseases, covered in dermatitis from product exposure, and other atrocities. These animals never receive names, receive affection, or experience their natural habitats.
Do Animals Have Legal Rights?
As mentioned above, animals do have some legal rights. However, don’t confuse legal rights with animal rights because they’re not the same thing.
Animals are considered property. If you steal a dog from your neighbor, it’s no different from stealing his television or car. If someone’s dog attacks your dog, you can sue for the vet bills you incurred as a result of the injuries, but not for the pain and misery your poor pet experienced from the attack.
Most of the legal rights given to animals involve humans, such as in the case of the pet attacked by someone else’s pet. Other laws prohibit abusing or neglecting animals, but even those are murky and uneven.
You can shoot a hog on your property, but you can’t shoot your pet cat. You can shoot a whitetail deer during certain months of the year, but not during others.
Furthermore, the laws the USDA sets forth for treatment of animals at factory farming facilities are woefully inadequate and still leave thousands of animals living in abject misery for their entire — and often very short — lives.
What Does It Mean to Be an Animal Rights Activist?
An animal rights activist is someone who fights on behalf of animals to protect them from human predation in all its forms. These people give their time, money, and voices to a cause about which they’re passionate, and their activities can range from protesting animal testing facilities and factory farming operations to lobbying legislators for better laws for animal rights.
If you want to be an animal rights activist, you don’t need a license or certification. Start campaigning for animal rights in whatever way seems most appropriate for you. Join animal rights groups, participate in tough conversations, and confront animal cruelty whenever you see it.
Animal rights activists believe that animals deserve the same consideration as humans. In other words, their livelihood should be considered when we make decisions about the world and how we make our way in it.
If we’re building a new housing development, for instance, how can we best avoid disrupting the natural wildlife there? When we’re deciding what we eat, how can we make choices that don’t cause animals to suffer?
We can wear synthetic fabrics instead of fur, eat whole fruits and vegetables instead of meat and eggs, buy products that have not been tested on animals, and educate the people in our lives about animals’ plights.
What Animal Rights Are the Most Abused?
Certain animals experience more cruelty at the hands of humans than others.
It’s interesting that many animal rights cases of abuse go along with human abuses, as well. For instance, drug trafficking and manslaughter often go hand-in-hand with cock and dog fighting. Meanwhile, domestic violence is correlated heavily with animal abuse.
Someone who is willing to abuse an animal likely won’t feel much compunction about abusing a fellow human. People who possess that innate level of cruelty can commit more than one type of crime.
Numerous investigations into factory farms have revealed abuses ranging from beating and kicking animals to using clubs and other weapons on them. These animals are often denied food and water as well as fresh air.
How Do Animal Rights Differ Between Countries?
The animal rights movement isn’t much different from one country to the next. People who campaign for animal rights all want the same thing: fair and humane treatment for animals all over the world.
However, animal welfare standards can vary significantly from one part of the world to another.
The United Kingdom, Austria, and New Zealand consistently rank highest on the World Animal Protection Index. Iran and Belarus rank the lowest. Brazil is the only Western country to rate a C, while the United States, Canada, and Mexico each rate Ds.
The indicators include factors like recognizing animal sentience, protecting farmed animals, protecting captive animals, and protecting companion animals. As a species, humanity isn’t doing very well in our quest to support our nonhuman animal friends.
However, that could change. By campaigning for better legislation, raising awareness about animal rights, and doing our best to avoid consuming any animal by-product, we can make animals’ lives better one creature at a time.
What Are the Most Important Principles of the Animal Rights Movement?
Now that we’ve covered some of the facts about animal rights and how we’re trying to move the needle forward, let’s look at some of the specific tenets of the animal rights movement and how they’re implemented.
Animals Shouldn’t Suffer for Human Benefit
Perhaps the most important part of the animal rights movement is the push toward protecting animals from human predation. In other words, we want all animals to be free of suffering and death for human benefit, whether they’re slaughtered for food or used as test animals in laboratories.
No animal should be caged, beaten, stripped of its dignity, or killed just so a human being can have what he or she wants for dinner. It’s unconscionable, especially given how these animals are treated while they’re still alive.
There’s no reason for humans to consume meat. Vegans get more than enough plant-based protein, for instance, from other sources. Additionally, we have access to supplements if we need extra iron or B12 in our diets.
Veganism is a fast-spreading movement and lifestyle choice that eschews taking from animals. It’s an offshoot of the vegetarian diet, but it spreads far beyond what we eat.
The animal rights movement asserts that animals shouldn’t be abused or neglected. Companion animals are bred to live in harmony with their human counterparts, but they deserve to live unencumbered by human failures. When people have pets, they’re morally obligated to provide what that animal can’t obtain on its own, from food and water to veterinary care.
There’s No Need to Consume Meat or Animal By-products
Vegans do not eat honey, eggs, or dairy. They don’t wear leather or fur or wool, or use products tested on animals.
Some of these values might seem unnecessary. For instance, shearing a sheep doesn’t kill the animal. However, it deprives that animal of its biologically defined protections against the environment. If sheep didn’t need their wool, they wouldn’t have it.
Vegans make sure that their lifestyles don’t infringe on nonhuman animals.
Animals Need Protection From Human Predators
The animal rights movement concerns itself with protecting wildlife. From hunting and poaching to disrupting natural habitats, humans have a lousy track record when it comes to putting our own needs and desires above animal welfare.
If you can see your beloved pet dog in the eyes of every animal on the planet, you’ll better understand why animal rights are so important. Most animal species care for their young, form social relationships with one another, and provide environmental benefits in their natural habitats.
Many animals, for instance, eat insects. Without them, we would become overwhelmed by pests that put human lives in danger by carrying diseases and make existing outdoors almost unbearable.
Some might say that hunting helps control populations of certain animals. However, the animal kingdom does a good job of that on its own. Overpopulation occurs as a result of reduced natural habitats — a human construction.
Furthermore, we’ve commercialized animal cruelty through factory farming and similar exploits. We’re not just taking animals from their natural habitats, but breeding them en-masse for the sole purpose of slaughtering them later.
That’s anathema to the animal rights movement.
Animal Abuse Statistics
If you think that animal abuse doesn’t exist in your own neighborhood, think again. As of March 2017, the RSPCA in the United Kingdom was investigating more than 150,000 cases of animal abuse. Calls to the hotline increased by 5 percent from the previous year.
According to the ASPCA, there are 65 million companion animals in shelters across the United States. Animals find themselves in shelters for myriad reasons, from surrender to confiscation. Many of these animals are physically and emotionally scarred by abuse — and won’t find homes as a result.
How Can I Help Animal Rights?
If you’re interested in helping the animal rights movement succeed, there are several things you can do to help further the cause. The more people who dedicate themselves to animal rights, the safer animals will become.
Stop Eating Meat
One of the most important things you can do is to stop eating meat and animal by-products. Commit yourself to a vegan or vegetarian diet.
As of 2018, the average American will consume a staggering 222 pounds of poultry and red meat in one year alone. Simply by taking meat off the table, both literally and figuratively, can spare hundreds of animals throughout your lifetime.
Stop eating dairy and eggs, as well. Factory farmed animals endure longer lifespans when they’re farmed for their by-products, which means even more suffering. Many of these animals die from exhaustion or are slaughtered because they’re too weak to stand up after giving milk or eggs on continuous loops.
Rescue Animals From Shelters
There’s nothing wrong with wanting a companion animal if you’re able to care for it, especially given the overpopulation of dogs and cats in animal shelters. But don’t buy a companion animal from a store or breeder. Instead, rescue one from the aforementioned shelters.
These animals are just as lovable and kind as those bred for sale — and often more so because they know what it’s like to live without a family. They need nurturing, love, companionship, play, and exercise.
Maybe your lifestyle isn’t conducive to having a pet in your home. There’s nothing wrong with that. Consider taking one Saturday a month to walk dogs at the local shelter. Giving these animals some fresh air and companionship, even if just for a few hours, will improve their quality of life immensely.
Don’t Use Products That Are Tested on Animals
Animal testing is a heinous practice that leaves animals in pain and agony for much of their lives. Imagine enduring endless rounds of product applications on your bare skin, in your eyes, and elsewhere. It’s a tremendously miserable way to live.
Fortunately, many companies have gone animal-friendly, which means that they no longer test their products on animals. You can seek out these products instead of your defaults to improve the lives of laboratory animals.
Many people underestimate the value of their contribution to this worthy cause. No, you won’t single-handedly take down corporations that victimize animals, but you’ll show these companies that they can’t have your hard-earned dollars because you don’t agree with their practices. When enough people take this approach, the companies won’t be able to survive.
Avoid Participating in Events Where Animals Are Used for Entertainment
This is somewhat of a gray area. Some animal events, such as canine agility and equine dressage, result from mutually respectful relationships between human and nonhuman animal. The animals aren’t forced to perform; they enjoy it as much as their humans do.
However, that isn’t the case across the board. Horses, for instance, are subject to animal abuse and cruelty in many equestrian events. They are beaten over fences, trained in chains to strengthen their muscles, or relieved of the bottoms of their hooves so their nerve endings are exposed.
Similarly, circuses and aquatic animal venues often beat their animals into submission and keep them in captivity where they’re unable to thrive. Do your research. Before you attend an event in which animals are used for entertainment, find out how they are treated and whether the event is in the animal’s best interest.
Educate Others About Animal Rights
You can become a one-person bullhorn for animal rights. Protest animal cruelty whenever you get the opportunity. If a friend asks why you don’t eat meat, explain. Share animal welfare stories on social media, write your legislators, and keep up with animal news.
The more you know about animal rights, the more you can amplify the stories of people who are fighting for animal welfare. These days, everyone has a platform waiting for them. Use it to further the animal rights movement in whatever way you can.
Don’t become a nuisance to your family and friends. Preaching endlessly about animal rights will only cause people to ignore you. Instead, take the opportunities as they come. Let others let you know when they’re ready to hear your perspective on animal rights.
When animals are considered property under the law, there is no limit to the ways in which humans can exploit them. We need to change how we view animal rights and how those rights are handed over to our animal friends.
It starts with awareness and education. If you’re willing to live your values, tell others about them, and spread others’ stories about animal rights, you can make a real difference.
We have a systemic problem with animal cruelty across the world. Some countries get it better than others, but no population is truly devoid of cruelty toward animals.
What are you doing to help further animal rights in your corner of the world?